Article submitted by writer, Lily Palmer. Reviewed by Anna Bolton.
Are you experiencing more joint pain, insomnia, or fatigue? If so, you may be deficient in magnesium, an essential mineral for seniors and for healthy aging.
As we age, we’re more at risk of nutrient deficiencies and magnesium is one of the nutrients to watch. According to the National Institutes of Health, Magnesium Fact Sheet:
“Older adults have lower dietary intakes of magnesium than younger adults. In addition, magnesium absorption from the gut decreases and renal magnesium excretion increases with age. Older adults are also more likely to have chronic diseases or take medications that alter magnesium status, which can increase their risk of magnesium depletion.”
Side effects of magnesium deficiency can overlap with symptoms we normally associate with aging. Read on to learn how low magnesium levels affect our mental and physical health in our senior years.
Magnesium and Mental Health
Magnesium is crucial to the function of more than 300 metabolic reactions. Having an inadequate magnesium level can contribute to insomnia, depression, anxiety, pain, and other neuropsychiatric issues in individuals.
Studies have shown that magnesium can play a major role in calming the nervous system. It helps block N-methyl D-aspartate receptors (NMDA), which cause memory and learning impairments. As the brain ages, the NMDA receptor system becomes hypofunctional and causes cognitive deterioration, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition to combating memory loss, magnesium supplements have also been proven to help the body relax, making it an effective sleep aid. Magnesium regulates the neurotransmitters that connect the nervous system and brain, which calms the body.
Magnesium also affects our natural production of melatonin, which is responsible for the body’s sleep cycle. So, trade-in your prescription sleep medications for magnesium to get a better night’s sleep without waking up drowsy!
Magnesium and Physical Health
About 50 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium and the risk of deficiency increases in older populations. This is a concern considering magnesium helps convert food into energy, form proteins for muscle tissue, contract and relax muscles, create and repair DNA, and regulate nervous systems.
Getting more magnesium can help you slow the aging process, boost your energy, lose weight, and sleep more soundly!
Magnesium is also an anti-inflammatory supplement. Reducing chronic inflammation is important because inflammation is a primary cause of diseases like heart disease and cancer, as well as joint pain and osteoporosis. Your body’s inflammatory response can eventually damage your healthy cells, tissues, and organs, which can lead to DNA damage, tissue death, and internal scarring.
Another study has shown that magnesium deficiency can have a negative impact on ocular tissues, making your eyes age prematurely. Magnesium plays a vital role in the development and function of the eye. A deficiency can lead to disorders in the optic nerve, infections, dryness, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma, which can cause your vision to change dramatically.
Depending on your condition you may need to update your glasses prescription to combat blurry vision, headaches, and disrupted depth perception, which could lead to instability and falls. Your eye doctor may also suggest that you use prescription eye drops for glaucoma and dry eyes, and get laser treatment or surgery for more serious conditions.
How to Increase Your Magnesium Levels
As we age, we’re simply more at risk for nutrient deficiencies – and magnesium is one of the essentials to keep an eye on.
First, make sure you are consuming magnesium-rich foods. The recommended daily amount of magnesium that you should ingest is between 400-420mg for men and 310-320mg for women. As we age, our ability to absorb magnesium can decline, so the best way to tell if you’re coming up short is often by looking at symptoms.
Also be aware that caffeine, alcohol, sugar, stress and a diet high in animal proteins can deplete your magnesium levels. Even getting too much calcium can offset the balance of these minerals, leading to symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
If you find yourself struggling to meet your daily requirements, try taking a high-quality magnesium supplement to make up for the lack of magnesium in your diet.
Of course, consider speaking to your doctor before taking a new supplement, especially if you’re taking medications or have a health condition. And don’t forget to schedule regular appointments with your eye doctor for vision tests and eye exams.